All my life, I’d heard story after story of the American dream.
Honestly? It smelled a whole lot like piss.
I’d rather go back to Poland, even if my raging asshole of a father was there and would be looking for me.
Two weeks ago, my mother had been shot. I’d held her as she died in my arms.
That night, I’d been taken.
My father, Piotrek Poplawski, was the kingpin of an incredibly powerful Polish mafia family. As his daughter, my only use to him was my hand in marriage. A month ago without my consent, he had arranged for me to marry the son of another prominent family, a man I knew to be cruel and violent. When I had found out, I went into hiding, not bothering to send word of my refusal. My disappearance had said enough.
I had underestimated my father’s reach though. He’d found me and as punishment for screwing up his marriage plans, he’d sold me off to the Russian mob with express orders to sell me to whoever was willing to pay the most.
Money and power were the only things that mattered to him.
I shivered. The temperature had dropped a little tonight.
A Russian named Igor had taken possession of me, shuttling me over Europe in a dirty livestock train car. For a few days, we’d stayed in a crumbling house in the countryside, waiting for more girls to arrive so they could ship us to where the real money was in America. We’d flown overseas in a freight plane, with me and several other girls hidden away in wooden crates in the back. To keep us quiet, we’d been sedated with some kind of injection. The only reason I’d taken it with dignity was because of the loaded gun pressed against the side of my head.
I’d woken up outside an abandoned warehouse of some kind. I didn’t really know much about what it was used for in the past, but there were several floors. We’d only climbed up one flight of stairs, but I knew there were one or more levels above me.
There were twelve of us, including me. From what I could tell, they were all either in their early twenties or late teens. They all appeared to be Eastern European in descent.
There was only one of the Russian bastards watching us right now. I didn’t speak Russian, but I knew enough to have figured out his name was Yuri when he and Igor were talking before Igor left.
If they had actually known me, they would have thought to have more guards.
If I was a betting woman, I would guess that the others were probably all getting drunk off some shitty brand of vodka in a dive bar not far from here. Even if they came back, they’d probably be sloshed off their asses, which would make them easy to outmaneuver and take down. They had clearly underestimated the lot of us, but I could understand why. Many of the girls were slender. A few were far skinnier than they should be.
A little while ago, there had been a smattering of gunfire and then a big explosion. Yuri had appeared unconcerned, simply taking a big swig from a steel flask sitting next to him and promptly coming close to passing out.
Whatever it was, it hadn’t come upstairs. Maybe if I was lucky, some American street gang had wiped out the rest of the Russians and the only one left was this dickhead.
That would make my life a whole lot simpler.
I lolled my head to the side, trying to keep as still as possible while keeping an eye on Yuri. I moved my hands a little behind my back. Several other girls had purple marks on their wrists from the coarse rope and I had no doubt that mine looked similar. All day, I’d had been working my arms back and forth so I could loosen them.
Yuri’s head bobbed back. His body started to slump a little bit in the chair and his chest began to rise and fall far more slowly. He’d fallen asleep.
It was time for me to move.
As quietly as I could, I rocked myself back and forth until I could throw myself up onto my feet. I stilled in a kneeling position, making sure that Yuri was still sleeping in the corner of the room. He snored loudly enough to startle one of the girls next to me who had nodded off too. Knowing time was of the essence, I slipped my hands underneath my butt. I curled myself in as small of a ball as possible. My mother had taught me to take advantage of my flexibility from a young age, so this was a trick I’d learned long ago.
Carefully, I slid my still-bound hands past the backs of my thighs and then underneath my knees. I pulled one leg out at a time and sat up with my hands in front of me. I twisted my wrist a bit more, gauging to see if I could escape the rope or not. It was loose enough, but I risked cutting myself on the stiff fibers. There was a flickering streetlamp casting dim light through the window, on and off, but it gave me just enough to see the boundaries of the rope that held me captive.
These weren’t professional ties by any means. The coarse rope was wrapped around my wrists a half dozen times with a shoddy knot that already appeared to be coming loose. Using my teeth, I loosened it a bit further. Yuri kept happily snoring across the room as I worked. Eventually, I pulled the end free.
With as much stealth as I could muster, I unwrapped the rope, taking a few scant moments to rub the soreness away. There was so much of it. It was as if they’d used an entire coil of rope to tie me up rather than cut it.
The streetlamp flickered again, illuminating my pale skin. Thankfully, my wrists were just red and not cut up and bruised like the others. There was a pretty brunette girl with light green eyes watching me. She said nothing, but there was a spark of hope in her eyes at seeing that at least one of us was free.
Unlike me, she wasn’t wearing any clothing, just underwear. I think her bra and panties had been light blue at some point, but they were too dirty in places to really tell. I don’t know why the Russians had allowed me to stay clothed. Maybe my father had told them to let me stay that way at least until they sold me to some sordid American with a fetish for foreign girls.
I held up my hand when she gestured with her chin to her own bruised wrists. I shook my head. I straightened the length of rope and held it in both hands, pointing to Yuri with a hard jab to try to let her know what my intentions were. She dropped her head, chuckling silently in amusement.
“Your funeral,” she mouthed, and I smirked.
I climbed up to my feet, padding softly through the room. I was wearing a pair of sneakers. They were really worn, but they at least protected my feet enough from the dirty metal floor. I snuck around, keeping a wide berth out of Yuri’s sight in case he happened to snore loud enough to wake himself up, but he didn’t. I made it all the way around him. I straightened the rope in my hands, holding it out taut. As slowly as possible, I lifted it up and over his head until it was scant inches from his throat.
I met the green-eyed girl’s gaze for just a moment. From her expression, she hadn’t thought I’d have the balls to do it.
She was wrong.
So very wrong.
All at once, I tightened my arms and threw myself backwards, using my entire body weight to strangle the much larger man. He sputtered for a second, not waking up particularly quickly and I took advantage of that. With all my strength, I pulled the rope as tight as I could.
He tried to get up a few times, but his heels slipped on the floor. Eventually though, he got enough traction to stand while his fingers tried to pry at the rope. My feet left the floor, and I used the rope as leverage to push my knees against his back.
I didn’t let go.
The door to the room slammed open. I started, not expecting the Russians to return or even really care about us up here. They hadn’t over the past few days at least.
It wasn’t the Russians though. It was someone else.
The streetlamp flashed once, illuminating the man enough to take my breath away. He was tall and dressed to the nines in a matte black tailored suit that screamed money. He was muscular, but not in the way the Russian enforcers were, but strong, nonetheless. With a heavy sigh, he cast his deep brown eyes over the room before they landed on me. His hair was a bit mussed, and his suit was covered in ash in places, like he’d just been in a fight. The light flickered again, and I could see the shadow of a day or two of beard growth on his chin. I wasn’t certain if his dark brown hair was peppered with gray or if there was soot in it too.
His gaze settled on me, and he lifted a single brow in surprise. I didn’t know who he was, nor did I much care because I had another problem to handle now. I’d deal with the new stranger after that.
In the scuffle, Yuri had managed to somehow get a single finger underneath the rope, and he jerked his hand forward. The man at the door strode forward purposefully and Yuri practically growled beneath me. Apparently, he didn’t know this man either and sputtered off something in Russian that sounded angry and threatening.
The rope around his throat made it hard to speak.
I smirked. Hopefully, it made it hard to breathe too.
The strange man smiled, and his eyes went dark. He cocked his head, his answering chuckle ominous in the silence. I pulled the rope tighter, and Yuri staggered from side to side. He started to wheeze. He was weakening, but not nearly fast enough. He pitched his entire torso forward, but I was ready for him. Hurriedly, I wrapped my legs around his waist, holding on as he struggled.
The man in the suit sighed heavily, pulling his arm back and clocking Yuri in the side of the head hard enough to rattle even me on his back. For a fraction of a second, Yuri swayed until he leaned precipitously toward the floor.
I knew enough to jump off before I got hurt.
Yuri slammed down to the floor, knocking his head again on the hard surface. It was jarring to see the whites of his eyes, but it was clear he was down for the count. I watched for a few moments longer, not really trusting that he’d been hit hard enough to knock a brute like him out. When enough time had passed where he didn’t move, I glanced up to the stranger, a little bit impressed.
“Don’t worry about him. I’ll deal with him later,” the man said. The quiet confident rumble of his voice rattled me. He didn’t have an accent, which meant that he wasn’t associated with the Russians or my father’s men.
Either way, he looked to be a man of means and in the world I came from, you couldn’t trust a man with money. I wasn’t going to trust him either.
He made no move to come after me. In fact, he was looking at me with the same sense of wariness that someone might give a wounded animal. For the moment, it seemed like he wasn’t a threat. I decided to ignore him until he became one.
I glanced around the room. Above me were several large sturdy pipes and I threw the rope up and over one. The man said nothing as he watched me. I looped it over a second pipe, in essence making a pulley system with just rope alone. I pulled it down enough to wrap it around Yuri’s throat.
The man in the suit didn’t move. He just watched me with a strangely disturbed expression on his face. The rest of the women watched in silence. Some of them still bore the marks on their faces from the consequences of speaking up.
I yanked the other end of the rope. The pulley system made it easy to lift a man of Yuri’s size up and off the floor, but it still used all my strength.
Moments after his feet left the floor, Yuri woke up. His legs kicked and he made a strange gurgling noise, but I looked away and instead watched the suited man while Yuri hung to death beside me.
The man’s gaze was dark. He didn’t intervene or try to stop me as I killed the Russian man. His cautious wariness only seemed to escalate, but there was something else there, a seductive gleam that hinted that my ability to fend for myself aroused him in some strange way.
I yanked the rope a bit farther, wrapping it around a hook on the wall several times to secure it. When I let go, the rope didn’t budge.
“Who are you?” I eventually ventured, cocking my head as he watched me.
“My name is James Monroe,” he answered simply. “And who are you?” He raised his brow, and I was left with the distinct impression that he was making the mistake of underestimating me despite what he’d just seen. Maybe he thought he could handle me. He was going to find out he was wrong. I lifted my chin a bit haughtily. He’d figure that out soon enough.
The confident rumble of his voice told me I should know him, but I wasn’t from this country. I squared my shoulders, staring back at him as boldly as I dared.
“You can call me Kasia,” I answered. I did not give him my last name. Back home, the name Poplawski inspired fear. I wasn’t sure if it would be known here, but I didn’t want this man to make that connection.
I didn’t want him to know I was a discarded mafia princess with nowhere to go and no one to turn to.
Some stones were better left unturned.
“Kasia,” he purred, as if he was testing my name on his tongue. My core tightened reflexively at the sound of it. A part of me wanted to hear it again, but I wasn’t about to tell him that. Honestly, I didn’t even want to admit that to myself.
He stared at me for a long moment before he started to help the rest of the girls to their feet. I didn’t dare move yet. I didn’t think this man would hurt me, at least that was my gut feeling so far, but I couldn’t be certain. Back in Poland, I’d learned not to trust anyone. I’d seen what appeared to be the kindest looking elderly man cross the street with his wife to the local market. He’d reached in his pocket. I’d assumed he was going to pull out a pocket watch or something, but then there was a gun in his hand. I watched him shoot the shop owner in cold blood and then just carry on about his day as though things were fine.
Behind him, several men in relatively nice suits walked through the door.
James reached into his pocket and flipped open a knife. He sawed through the rope on each girl as he moved around the circle. A few he just untied because it took less time. The men who had entered along with him started doing the same.
“See to it that they get out of here safely. Get them clothes and rooms at the Waldorf. One for each of them and tell them to bill it to my account. I want them taken care of as though they were me,” James said, instructing the men. They didn’t answer him, but it was clear they answered to him. Immediately, they shuffled the girls out. There were enough of them to carry the girls who didn’t have any shoes. The rest were directed out without complaint. When one of them moved in my direction, James held up his hand.
“Not that one. I’ll see to her myself,” he dictated, and the man nodded quickly, immediately turning away.
“I can take care of myself,” I snarled. He narrowed his eyes slightly, as if I was challenging him in some way.
“You’re not going to, though, Kasia. You’re going to come with me. You killed a Bratva soldier and that puts you in an infinitely perilous position.”
“They’re not going to find out,” I retorted.
“They probably already know,” he answered.
I furrowed my brow, confused as he pointed to a dim corner. Dark and unassuming, I hadn’t really paid attention to it before. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and turned on his flashlight function, lighting up the room far more than the streetlamp could.
“They will know because they were watching,” he said.
There was a black camera hidden there that I hadn’t seen.
“I’ll go somewhere they won’t find me,” I argued.
“I know you just met me, Kasia, but I need you to trust me. I’m not going to hurt you. I have zero intention of selling you the way these men wanted to. You’ll be safest with me,” he assured me.
I wanted to believe him, but I just couldn’t bring myself to. Wanting to buy myself a little bit of time, I licked my lips and assessed him to the best of my ability. He radiated power, but right now it was subdued, like he was either trying to draw me in or what he was saying was actually true. I couldn’t be sure which was right.
All my life, I’d had to fend for myself. My mother was a fighter and she’d taught me to be one. She knew the world we lived in and the skills that she had taught me had come in handy time and time again. From a young age, I’d learned to use my small form to my advantage. I’d taken down men twice my size. I’d had to kill several times before, all because of who my father was. Enemy families had either tried to kill us or to kidnap us for ransom, and the two of us had fought our way out every time.
I would do the same thing again. It didn’t matter that his eyes were kind. I didn’t need him. I could take care of myself, but I would wait until the right moment to make a break for it. He’d let his guard down eventually.
“Alright,” I murmured. The other men and the rest of the women had gone, leaving just James and me. I turned my head, listening for any sign of them, but I heard nothing. He thought he could handle me all on his own.
He’d find out his mistake soon enough.
Wanting to stall a bit longer, I walked over to Yuri’s body. I’d seen him slip a clip of money into his pocket. I patted him down, finding both his wallet and another flask of vodka. With a quick sleight of hand, I hid the money beneath my clothes and made it seem like I was just interested in the flask. It was made of silver with some metal engraving decorating the exterior.
“That mean something to you?” he asked.
“It was my father’s,” I lied, using the first thing that popped into my head. He didn’t press any further and I didn’t offer anything else.
He held out his hand and I walked toward him. I didn’t take it, instead choosing to walk past him. Gently, he wrapped his hand around my upper arm, taking control of me—possibly just to spite me or possibly to show me that he could easily overpower a lone girl.
We walked out of the room together. Since it was after dark, it was hard to make out much of the warehouse. I could see enough to tell that we were walking down a long hallway to a flight of metal stairs that I vaguely remember walking up a few nights ago. We traversed the stairs slowly together. We made it to the landing, and I was able to get a glimpse of what was down below.
The ground was littered with bodies. Many of them were Russian. There were a few different men that I didn’t recognize, which I assumed were James’ men. There was evidence of gunshots all over, as well as signs of an explosion of some kind. There were still small fires burning from it.
The last people in the building were just me and James. It was time to make my move.
We began descending the stairs together. I pretended to stumble, pitching forward. I grabbed the creaky stairwell and threw my right leg back, hooking my foot and catching his ankle enough to make him loose his footing. He made a surprised sound and tumbled down the rest of the stairs. It wasn’t far enough to kill him or really hurt him that badly, but it was enough to give me the leverage to escape.
I sprinted down the stairs, not wanting to waste a single second. The clatter of him falling echoed in the large building, but I didn’t look back. Instead of running out the front door, I ran straight to a broken window at the back of the building. I didn’t know if it had been blown out in the explosion, not that it really mattered.
The alley behind the warehouse was pitch black. When I reached the end of it, I dove to the left and sprinted down another. Behind me, I heard heavy footfalls, but they were pretty far back. I kept going, knowing that every single step mattered.
By the time I finally stopped, my stomach was cramping, and I was out of breath. Running was an exercise I had taken pride in back home, so I’d gone pretty far, at least three miles from the warehouse into a more populated district.
There was a touristy looking shop to my left and I made a quick turn into it. Without wasting any time, I picked up a pair of jeans and a nice blouse in my size. I grabbed a pair of new panties too. I didn’t see any bras, so I figured I’d just have to go without one. There was an oversized sleepshirt with the New York skyline on it and I slipped into one of the dressing rooms. I took off the tags and got dressed, taking out just enough money from Yuri’s wallet to cover the cost. I walked up to the counter and put the three tags down alongside the sleepshirt.
The male cashier looked at me with a distrustful look.
“My clothes are sort of trashed. I needed some new ones,” I explained. I had mine in a ball in my hands that I lifted up to show him. “I would really appreciate it if you’d let me throw these out.”
“Rough night?” he asked, lifting an eyebrow.
“Yeah. You could definitely say that.”
He looked me up and down as he picked up the tags.
“The blouse, the jeans and underwear, I take it?” he asked.
“Yup. This too.” I pointed to the sleepshirt. He rang it all up and cleared his throat.
I laid down the cash on the counter. He sighed, picking it up and using a counterfeit pen before he finalized the sale in the register. He took the hanger off the sleepshirt, bagging it up and handing it to me.
“Garbage?” I asked.
He handed me a bag.
“You can throw those in the dumpster out back,” he explained, while handing me the change.
“You keep the rest,” I smiled.
“Thanks,” he said, his whole face lighting up. I bagged up my trashed clothes and left the store. There was a dumpster in the alley behind the store, just like he’d said there would be, and I tossed my soiled ones out back. I went into another store and bought a hooded wool jacket, pulling it up and over my head.
I looked the part of an American with at least a little means.
The first hotel I found was pretty ritzy. I walked inside, approaching the front desk with a confident air of a woman who knew what she was doing.
The front desk attendant lifted her eyes to me. It was pretty late at night, and she looked surprised to see me.
“I don’t have a reservation, but I need a room for the night,” I answered.
“Kasia Poplav,” I answered. It was a pseudonym that I’d used several times before. She typed it into the system and was quiet for a minute.
“We have a king room available, non-smoking,” she replied.
“I’ll take it. Thank you.”
“I’ll need a credit card to secure the room,” she said expectantly.
I slipped my hand into my pocket and pulled out several hundred-dollar bills. She glanced at me and down at the cash.
“We don’t usually…” she began.
I slipped another one toward her.
“Please. Just for a night.”
She stared at me for a long minute before glancing at her screen. When she turned back to me, I thought I saw something of a flare of recognition, but it was gone so quickly that I told myself that I had just imagined it. With a sigh, she took the money off the counter.
“The room is $325 a night,” she stated. She prepared a few room keys for me and then passed them to me across the counter. “Checkout is at noon tomorrow. Would you like late checkout?”
“I’ll put you in to check out by three. Enjoy your stay, Ms. Poplav,” she smiled.
“I appreciate it. Have a wonderful rest of your night,” I replied.
I walked down the hall to the elevators. While I was waiting for it to come down, I finally checked the room number. I was pretty high up on the twentieth floor. I rode the elevator up and strode down the hall to room 2026, waving the key in front of the lock so that it clicked open.
I went into the room and closed the door behind me. I leaned against it, sighing in relief. I was alone, but more important, I was safe.
When my heartbeat finally returned to normal, I opened my eyes and nearly started to cry. The room was beautiful. It was designed in a contemporary style, with a dark blue feature wall painted with angular slate blue lines. The massive king bed was covered in a plush white quilt with four fluffy white pillows against the padded gray leather headboard. There was a seating area with a dark gray canvas couch and a matching ottoman to lie on. I probably wouldn’t use it, but there was a desk area that looked pretty efficient and well thought out.
I pushed myself away from the door and walked into the bathroom. The walk-in shower was covered in beautiful granite tiles. Unable to resist, I disrobed and wandered inside. When I turned on the water, I expected it to be cold at first. It wasn’t. It came out hot from the start and I moaned as I simply languished under the spray for a few minutes.
It had been so long since I’d felt clean, and I luxuriated in it.
Eventually, I started to wash myself. I lathered my hair several times until the water finally rinsed clear. I washed my body twice, scrubbing away at the dirt and filth so much that my skin turned a little pink. I conditioned my hair, working it through every strand purposefully. I used my fingers to tease out all the tangles before I was done.
I enjoyed the warm water for a while longer until exhaustion finally hit me. I turned off the shower and grabbed one of the hanging towels. I squeezed out my hair and walked over to the counter. There was a wide range of toiletries all laid out, including a small, wrapped brush. I opened it and brushed my hair.
There was a toothbrush and toothpaste and I used that too. When I was done, I felt like myself again. I grabbed the sleepshirt out of the plastic bag and pulled it on along with the panties I’d picked out.
Not caring that my hair was still wet, I slipped into the ridiculously tempting bed and closed my eyes. I didn’t wake up for the rest of the night.
Kasia was an absolute firecracker.
I wanted her.
From the very first moment I laid eyes on her, I’d been captivated. I didn’t quite know how to handle that, but I was curious enough to want to know more.
When I’d walked into the room, I’d expected to find a group of ravaged and terrified girls, with the exception of Kasia. She was different. She’d taken on the Russian Bratva soldier without even the slightest hint of fear.
I don’t know why that made me as hard as it did.
She’d jumped on his back like a goddamn spider monkey, pulling that rope taut around his throat like he wasn’t at least twice her size. The man was an ominous sight, even to someone like me. He was massive, the kind of guy that probably hadn’t missed a single upper body workout in his life. His body had been covered in tattoos, a symbol of just how many men he’d killed in his days as a Bratva soldier. There was a thick silver nose ring in his left nostril. He kind of reminded me of a prized bull.
Her slate blue eyes had challenged me as soon as I walked through that door. In the dark, they had looked gray but when the lights flickered from outside the window, I had seen the prettiest shade of blue flash in my direction. Her soft pink lips were tense, yet full and I bet they were soft to the touch. Her heart-shaped face was dirty, but there was a rosy hue painted over her cheeks that gave her an angelic glow. Her blonde tresses were tangled and just as filthy as the rest of her. I knew that her hair would shine in the sun like a spool of golden thread once I got her clean.
I’d let my men handle the rest of the women. They’d gone quietly. I’d take care of them, ensuring that every single one of them made their way back home safely to their families.
Kasia was a more complicated case.
She’d killed a member of the Russian Bratva. If I sent her back home now, she’d simply be hunted and disposed of.
I had originally intended on bringing her home with me, but the beautiful little she-devil tripped me on the stairs and sprinted off into the night. I’d done my best to keep up with her, but she was a crafty thing and disappeared within the network of alleyways in this derelict part of the city.
I hadn’t even come here knowing that I’d have to rescue a handful of women from the hands of the Bratva tonight. The only reason I was here was because my close friend and reigning mafia boss of the Montagna family, Jon Moretti, needed help rescuing his girl Mila.
I couldn’t get my mind off Kasia, so I called Hugo, my lead man.
“Find out if any of the girls speak English for me,” I stated.
“Right away, boss,” he replied. There was a scuffle I heard over the phone as he asked the women he had gathered with him.
“One girl. Irina,” he answered.
“Put her on the phone.”
There was more shuffling.
“Hello?” a shy woman asked. She was clearly still afraid. I understood completely. I’m sure the Russians had been exceedingly cruel to them, lugging them across the world as property and beating them when they had the audacity to stand up for themselves.
“Hi there, Irina. My name is James. I need to ask you a few questions and I would really appreciate if you could help me,” I began. I kept my tone soft, gentle even.
“Okay,” she answered, still a bit wary.
“The girl upstairs, the one that killed the Russian. Is her name really Kasia?”
“Who is she?” I pressed.
“Her full name is Kasia Poplawski,” she answered. She stumbled over the English words a bit.
“Poplawski?” I echoed.
“Yes. Her father is Piotrek Poplawski. Bad man,” she added. She sounded a bit braver now and I was happy to hear it.
“Thank you, Irina. You’ve been so very helpful. Now go with Hugo. He’ll see to it you have a full meal, a nice shower, and a comfy bed for the night.”
“Thank you, Mr. James,” Irina replied. I hung up the phone.
I hadn’t alerted the girl, but I knew the name Poplawski. In Poland, it was infamous. The Poplawski mafia family held a vast area of territory and from what I understood, they ruled with an iron fist.
Kasia was the kingpin’s daughter.
What was a Polish mafia princess doing in the hands of the Russians? In a trafficking ring no less? I needed to know more, but more important, I needed to find her.
Immediately, I started making some calls. It was really late at night. Even here in the city, most restaurants would be closed. There might be some shops still open, but they’d be few and far between. There was a small possibility that she might sleep on the street somewhere, but I thought it might be more likely that she’d tried to find a hotel for the night.
She had money. I’d seen her sleight of hand to hide it from me. I was proud of her for thinking of a detail like that. She could get a hot meal, new clothes, and a place for the night.
What she didn’t know though was that she wouldn’t be able to hide from me. She could try, certainly, but I was going to find her wherever she went.
I wasn’t a public figure. I didn’t have a political office or a mafia family to run, but what I did have was money.
I could buy whoever I wanted whenever I needed regardless of the cost. There was nothing out of reach for me. I could buy off the mayor or the director of the police or someone as simple as a hotel owner. If a situation called for it, I could pay my way into an alliance, be it with the infamous Montagna mafia family or the Waldorfs that owned much of Manhattan.
Sam Davidson picked up right away. He was my inside man in the New York division of the FBI. His specialty was surveillance. He had cameras that covered most of the city, from traffic lights to well-traveled blocks to even the dimly lit entrances of alleys all over the state. If there was a location that he didn’t initially have eyes on, he could usually hack into the private systems of regular business owners and civilians to find what he needed.
“I need you to find someone for me,” I began.
“James! It’s nice to hear from you,” Sam said.
“Find Kasia Poplawski for me and I’ll pay off your son’s expensive Harvard loan, no questions asked,” I promised.
“You got it, boss,” he answered. “She must be pretty important for you to put out that kind of capital. I mean, I’m not complaining, but the wife has gotten used to the all-expenses-paid trips.”
“Can you find her?”
“Already on it. Her name is on the watchlist, so it should go faster than normal.”
“Good. Call me back as soon as you find something. Do me a favor and text me a picture of her. I need to make a few other calls and that would be helpful,” I explained.
I hung up again and my phone pinged right away. I opened the text to see Kasia’s pretty face staring back at me. I smiled, just studying it for a second. With a sigh, I eventually closed the picture and dialed one of the top computer hackers in the world.
“Nina,” I began.
“James,” she yawned. It was late at night, and she probably had yet to go to bed. I heard a can click open and I knew she’d probably just popped open a Monster. Her favorite were the pink ones.
“I need a favor. Get me everything you can find on Kasia Poplawski.”
“I’m going to need another energy drink,” she complained.
“I’ll send you a six-pack and your favorite pepperoni pizza from Giovanni’s. When the job is done, I’ll make some calls and get you an early copy of that game you like before anyone else,” I promised.
“You mean the new God of War?”
“That’s the one,” I answered, grinning.
“You got it. You’ll have a zip folder in your email by morning,” she replied, sounding far more awake now. She was young, but there wasn’t a system she couldn’t hack, be it the FBI, the CIA, or the Oval Office. Every computer system in the world was available to her. It was just a question of how long it would take her to get in.
I’d found her several years ago on the dark web and I hadn’t turned to anyone else since.
“I look forward to it,” I said.
She hung up the phone and my own rang less than a second later. It was Sam.
“She just walked into the Majestic Hotel a few minutes ago. I’ve got the manager on the line. What do you want me to tell him?”
“Give her one of the rooms on the upper levels and bill it to my account. Have a keycard ready for me in the morning.”
“You don’t want them to detain her?”
“No. I want them to give her a safe place to stay for the night and I’ll deal with her tomorrow when I get there,” I explained.
“No. Thank you, Mr. Monroe,” he replied.
I hung up the phone and pinged my driver. With a sigh, I walked out to the road and my car pulled up alongside me. I slipped into the backseat and leaned back against the soft Italian leather.
“Where to, boss?”
“Take me to the Majestic. I’m going to spend the rest of the night there,” I said.
With a curt nod, he drove off into the night. Less than ten minutes later, I was standing in front of the hotel. A man rushed to the door and held it open for me.
“Good evening, Mr. Monroe.” He dipped his head.
“Good evening,” I greeted in return. I swiftly made my way through the entryway into the open-style atrium to the front desk.
“It’s good to see you again, Sophia,” I nodded, smiling softly as her face lit up.
“It’s always a pleasure, Mr. Monroe. We prepared your room as soon as we heard you were coming. There’s a freshly laundered suit waiting for you in the closet. We made sure to stock all of your usual requests as well,” she said.
“Thank you so much. Do you have the other room key for me?”
“Yes. Kasia Poplawski is in room 2026.”
“Good. I will attend to her in the morning.”
“As you wish, Mr. Monroe,” she smiled politely.
“Oh. One other thing, if I may. Any noise complaints you receive tomorrow on my behalf are to be settled at my expense.”
“Of course. I’ll make sure to handle them myself,” she replied.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out several hundred-dollar bills. I pressed them to the surface of the desk as I took the room keys.
“You have a great night, Sophia,” I smiled.
“You too, Mr. Monroe,” she grinned in return.
I turned away and strode through the lobby to the elevator reserved for special guests. I hardly paid any attention as I walked through the doors, pushing the top floor key automatically. I stayed here from time to time. It wasn’t the most expensive hotel in town, but the rooms were gorgeously designed, and I knew all the staff here by name and they knew me. Plus, the owner was a close friend of mine.
Kasia’s cerulean eyes popped into my vision. I remembered her confident glare as her wispy blonde hairs whipped around her face.
I wanted her to look at me the same way, but with one critical difference.
She would be down on her knees, completely naked, waiting reluctantly for me to fuck that pretty little mouth.